Caelesta Vineyard and the Farrell family harvested a small amount of Black Périgord Truffles (Tuber melanosporum) in January 2022, bringing a seven-year adventure into fruition. The property, located in the Templeton Gap region of Paso Robles, is home to 10 dedicated acres of Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) trees that will be producing this culinary delicacy for years to come.
In 2015, Brian and Denise Farrell purchased the 200-acre property with the goal of planting vines for wine production. Soon after the purchase, a portion of the land was identified as great potential for truffles. Denise Farrell has always been the family chef with a love of Black Truffles, so it was a clear decision to move forward. The Farrell family's goal is to nurture their land to create a farm to table experience and truffles fit in to their commitment of sustainable farming.
"Our goal is to showcase the potential of the Templeton Gap AVA for premium Rhône, Bordeaux, and Spanish varieties while creating a sustainable, family-operated ranch for generations to come," said Brian Farrell, Jr. Viticulturalist and Winemaker. "The opportunity to incorporate truffles into what we grow made so much sense as it is in line with keeping a healthy growing environment, both in the soil and the surrounding ecology."
The Farrell family consulted with Pierre Sourzat, a world-renown leading authority on truffle propagation. Before planting, they tested the soils looking mainly at the pH and soil moisture levels as well as ensuring that the Mediterranean climate would be ideal. Truffles traditionally grow in chalky soils, which are naturally high in pH. The soils on the ranch were in the window of 7.9 - 8.1pH, which is ideal for Black Truffles.
"We hope to be a leader in the local area for farm to table products other than grapes and wine," continues Farrell. "Winegrapes, wine, and truffles are only the beginning as we will continue to look at how we can create and grow more experiences that honor the land and sustainable farming."
In 2015, 2,200 Holly Oak trees were inoculated and planted on a lower portion of the property. The first signs of brulées, came in 2017. This is when the soil at the base of the host tree no longer sustains other plant material, which is indicative of the fungus creating volatile organic compounds. This was a promising sight in 2017, but not a guarantee. It can take five to 10 years to see any results, which can also never come.
In 2017 into 2019, 35 acres of vines were planted on the steep hillsides of the property. Currently, 80 acres exist for a wildlife corridor and grazing land with plans for eventual sheep and goat herds. The vineyards are organically farmed by Coastal Vineyard Services. Once truffles become abundant to scale, Caelesta Vineyard will sell to restaurants, private chefs, as well as use them in their own culinary offerings from their edible garden.